Mikael 'Derailed' Håfström’s mild chiller is pretty much a one-man horror vehicle for John Cusack as Mike Enslin, a world-weary writer who makes his living from staying in supposedly haunted locations and describing his experiences. After a mysterious invite to New York’s Dolphin Hotel, he defies the portentous warnings of manager Olin (Samuel L Jackson) and attempts to stick it out in room 1408, which has a history of deaths, suicides and general freakiness.
In his excellent book about horror writing, Danse Macabre, Stephen King offers a persuasive description of the power of the ‘bad place’, any kind of property which might provide a magnet for negative psychic energy, but 1408 plays as little more than a dumbed-down version of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Abandoning the subtle psychological approach of King’s original short story, Cusack’s character is assaulted by all manner of physical manifestations of inner demons, including repeated exposure to The Carpenters’ ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’, before a tacked-on backstory about his dead daughter leads to an unsatisfying conclusion. King may have been unhappy with Kubrick’s genuinely frightening version of his book, but this Shining-lite is no improvement; sure, there’s a secret behind the door of room 1408, but it’s the same one that haunts most of King’s tortured protagonists.